Newsmaker of the Year finalists named

Published 12:07 am Thursday, March 12, 2020

BEAUMONT — Members of the Press Club of Southeast Texas have chosen the five finalists for the prestigious honor of Newsmaker of the Year for 2019.

The five nominees are, in alphabetical order:

  • Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, for his leadership following Tropical Depression Imelda and the TPC explosion in Port Neches.
  • Dr. Belinda George, principal of Homer Drive Elementary School in Beaumont, who received national attention for her program of reading bedtime stories to her students via iPhone video.
  • State Rep. Dade Phelan, for his active role in the 2019 legislative session, growing statewide reputation and his leadership on many other local issues.
  • Geary Senigaur, organizer of Dads on Deck, a group of volunteers who patrolled exterior of Parkdale Mall to promote safety and reach out to wayward youths.
  • Satchel Smith, young hotel worker hailed as a hero after working 32 hours straight at Homewood Suites in Beaumont during Tropical Storm Imelda.

The Newsmaker of the Year is defined as the Southeast Texan or Texans who had the greatest positive impact on the region in the previous year.

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Press Club members are given a list of potential nominees and their votes determine the five finalists, including the winner.

The winner will be announced at the Press Club’s annual Excellence in the Media banquet June 5 at the Elegante Hotel in Beaumont.

The proceeds from this banquet are used to provide a scholarship for a student majoring in journalism or communications at Lamar University.

Last year’s winner for 2018 Newsmaker was Paula O’Neal, who had announced her retirement after 35 years of leading Some Other Place, which has provided food, clothing and other vital services to the needy in Beaumont.

This award has been given every year since 1991. Press Club members have also twice chosen a Newsmaker of the Decade – former Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles for the years 1991 to 1999 and former Lamar University President James Simmons for the years 2000 to 2009.

The next Newsmaker of the Decade will be voted on from among the yearly winners from 2010 to 2019.